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What is a paediatric nurse?

A paediatric nurse is a nurse who is responsible for caring for children of all ages, ranging from new-borns to teenagers. Children have quite specific health needs, which is why it’s so important to understand what a healthy child needs to develop into adulthood. With paediatric nursing, you will work closely with the patient’s parents, or guardians, to offer support and keep them updated.

Interested in pursuing a career in paediatric nursing? Here’s the top-line information about paediatric nursing you need to know.

What is paediatric care?

Paediatric care refers to the age of your patient, as the vast majority of the patients of a paediatric nurse will be children. This means you’re likely to be working with younger age groups, and can be taking on work in multidisciplinary teams alongside doctors (paediatricians), play staff, healthcare assistants, psychologists and social workers.
Your duties could include:

  • Assessing care needs, carrying out physical examinations, assisting with diagnosis, and developing treatment plans
  • Checking on your patients and recording key data
  • Understanding and responding appropriately to a child’s behaviour and reactions. This is particularly important when caring for very young children who can’t tell anyone how they are feeling
  • Administering medication
  • Performing a range of clinical procedures, including setting up life-saving medical/monitoring equipment, wound dressing and giving injections
  • Supporting, parents and carers as they deal with having a sick child in hospital and advising on care plans after discharge

In more senior paediatric nursing roles, you will need to teach your specialised skills to students and other health professionals while also being responsible for organising shifts. Paediatric nurses can work in a variety of settings including hospitals, hospices and in the community, and shift patterns will most likely vary and will include working unsocial hours at times.

Skills for paediatric nursing

Aside from your academic qualifications, you will need an extensive skillset to become a paediatric nurse:

  • Communication – you will be liaising with healthcare professionals and family members and provide regular updates on a patient’s condition, so good communication skills are essential.
  • Friendliness – as the majority of your patients will be younger children, you should be friendly and approachable to put their worries at ease.
  • Adaptability – you may need to adapt to individual patients’ personalities and moods, as well as their conditions.

How do I become a paediatric nurse?

There are various routes in paediatric nursing, with the most common route being a university nursing degree. All nurses in the UK need to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), or the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland if you live in Ireland, and complete an approved traineeship from the NMC. The vast majority of your degree will include clinical practice as well as nursing theory. Another route into nursing could be undertaking an NMC-approved apprenticeship.

Entry requirements for an undergraduate degree are typically a minimum of five GCSEs at grade 4/C or above, possibly including English language or literature and a science subject. You’ll also need two A levels or equivalent level 3 qualifications. Some universities ask for three A levels or equivalent. If you already have a degree, you may be able to get into nursing via a postgraduate qualification. 

You might choose to do a nursing degree apprenticeship (NDAs) – an alternative, more flexible, route into nursing. NDAs combine part-time study at an approved education provider with a permanent job in healthcare. In the end, you’ll have a degree and full registered nurse status. At work, you can expect to be paid at least the minimum apprenticeship wage and your tuition fees will be covered by your employer. One day a week you’ll be free to get on with your studies.

Although the apprenticeship programme typically takes four years to complete, the system known as the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) means you could be fully qualified in just three years.

Another entry point is qualifying as a nursing associate. This can lead to a nursing degree or nurse degree apprenticeship and full nurse registration. 

Working as a children’s nurse in the Republic of Ireland (ROI)

If you’re a children’s nurse in Ireland, then your services are in great demand. Nurse retention has long been an issue. It’s even been reported recently that a new children’s hospital, part of the Children’s Hospital Group (CHG), is so short of trained medical staff that not all the beds will be available on time.

 If you’re a qualified nurse or midwife interested in working in the ROI, you’ll need to register with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI). More information is available from Nursing in Ireland – a website run by the Health Service Executive (HSE). To attract more staff into the ROI, the HSE is offering a relocation package to all successful overseas applicants.

How much do paediatric nurses get paid?

The salary of a children’s nurse can vary – for example, newly qualified nurses start on Band 5 and can expect to earn around £25,000 per year, whereas mid-level nurses (Band 6 and above) can expect £32,306 to £45,839. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the paediatric hourly rates vary between £38 – £48.50 an hour, and between €41 and €57 per hour in the republic of Ireland.

Thinking of becoming a paediatric nurse? The Guild offers a wide range of roles in different locations, with a multitude of benefits such as competitive pay and training opportunities. Contact our team today for more information, or alternatively, register online now.

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